Tapping Latent Natural Language in Your Online Communities for Actionable Business Insights

  • By Patrick Spencer
  • 25 Apr, 2017
Online communities, customer communities, BI, NLP, Cognition insights

The jury is no longer out when it comes to online communities. The evidence undeniably shows that companies with online communities see tangible business returns. For example, a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group uncovered the following:

  • Businesses with online communities achieve 54 percent faster annual growth in revenue and see 3.1 times greater customer satisfaction rates.
  • Companies with online communities decrease customer service costs by 2.6 percent.
  • Customer service issues are resolved 37 percent of the time without escalation to a customer service agent.

Online communities also facilitate better customer engagement, which translates into higher revenues. For example, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan , customers that are actively engaged in communities spend 19 percent more than other customers.

Mapping Out Use Cases for Online Communities

Online communities serve a number of different functions. Some of the most predominant ones include:

1. Support. As a starting point, customers increasingly prefer self-service when attempting to answer questions or resolve problems. In addition to publishing a knowledgebase of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), an online community can connect users with other users who may have already answered or solved the issue as well as support engineers. A report from Parature indicates that 90 percent of your customers expect you to offer self-service via some form of “portal” (online community).

It seems to be working well: according to a report from the Northridge Group , 55 percent of customers who turn to online self-service achieve a resolution. Gartner predicts that web self-service may accounting for as much as 40 percent of all service engagements by 2020. For the latter, Forrester research shows the costs to staff support engineers on community forums (or for that matter monitor social networks and other third-party sites such as Reddit) is immensely cheaper than sourcing all of those customer inquiries to phone, live web chat, or email engagement channels.

2. Content Publishing and Audience Engagement. Some organizations use their online communities for distributing content to their customers and even prospects (often via their blogs). If done correctly (viz., not marketing fluff and messaging), content on your online community—that which you produce and that generated by customers—is seen as authentic and holds greater credibility. Those communities deemed most mature by The Community Roundtable adhere to a 50/50 ratio (user- versus company-generated content). Interestingly, in terms of use cases, communities where content is listed as the number one business objective have the largest average member size, according to a recent study by CMX and Influitive .

The value of online community content for the customer journey is much greater than what many assume. A research study by Demand Metric found that content is rated “extremely valuable” across all stages of the funnel:

  • Discovery, 50%
  • Consideration, 59%
  • Purchase, 51%
  • Retention, 76%
  • Advocacy, 74%

3. Product Ideation and Insights. Product teams find it difficult to secure feedback from customers on their experiences using their products. It’s difficult to get substantial time with users to capture their use cases and insights. Online communities provide product teams a chance to capture unfiltered feedback from an engaged customer base. Larger communities can span smaller communities or forums comprised of users with more like-minded interests (e.g., specific products, features, industry segments, etc.).

4. Demand-Gen Results. Demand Gen Report in a study commissioned by Demandbase found that 73 percent of B2B companies with online communities report that they support the buying process. Buyers concur. Sixty percent of they say they seek out peer reviews on online communities and third-party review sites before making a purchase decision. And communities are cited as the number one resource used by buyers. Of course, quality content is a critical enabler, increasing what is described as a spillover effect by 30 percent (lead advancement).

5. SEO. Publication of quality content that answers query intents generates search results. With questions and answers comprising a significant portion of content within an online community, this coincides closely with search intent—a core part of the Google Fred algorithm update. Additionally, as various companies publish their blogs within their online communities, this provides them with an opportunity to drive search traffic to their sites (specifically communities).

6. Advocacy. This is an area that has come to the forefront in the past few years. The aforementioned report by CMX and Influitive finds that acquisition and advocacy are the second most cited business objectives (23 percent) for companies that have online communities. So, why is this the case? Companies with online communities find that customers are more willing to advocate on their behalf. Better engagement, along with gamification, turns customers into advocates.

7. Partner Engagement. A key pain point for many partner programs is what many call the “partner portal.” These often reside on dated technologies, resulting in non-intuitive interfaces, substantial maintenance costs, and lengthy content posting processes. All of this translates into poor partner utilization. Some businesses are turning to online communities as a means to transform this experience by engaging partners via two-way communications. Take SAP as an example . The company built a community-powered partner management solution that helped it improve lead conversion rates by 27 percent while cutting costs by 20 percent. 

8. Employee Engagement. Studies show that a minority of employees indicate they are engaged. In a study conducted last year, Gallup found that less than one-third of workers in the U.S. qualify as engaged. Worldwide the numbers are even worse, with the numbers pegged at an astonishing 13 percent. Online communities are one way companies are addressing these dismal numbers. Not only are employees more engaged when they participate in an online community, but they also are more likely to advocate on behalf of the company.

Measuring the Metrics of Online Communities

Despite all of the positive news and momentum around online communities, a sizable number continue to struggle with issues such as user adoption and engagement, consistent and sustained support, and even survival. Gartner believes 70 percent of online communities are destined to fail. There are a number of reasons such as an imbalance in vendor- versus member-generated content, outdated or inaccurate content, subpar engagement and utilization rates, missing pathways to facilitate peer-to-peer relationship building, and inadequate promotion. The list could go on.

Research from The Community Roundtable demonstrates that those organizations able to tie meaningful metrics to their communities have a much greater likelihood to succeed. Best-in-class communities are twice as likely to measure behaviors and outcomes than their peers. The Community Roundtable places metrics at the very center of a community’s charter: “The growth and success as a strategic approach is something in which all of us who have been involved with building communities can take pride. In the long run, though, our good feelings won’t be enough. We must focus on the measurable benefits of community approaches for customers, employees, partners, leaders, and organizations alike. The data and stories are there.”

So, what are these measurements and how are they used? The Community Roundtable pinpoints 14 metrics:

  • Total Activity
  • Total Members
  • Active Members
  • Contributing Members
  • Volume of Comments
  • Content Views, Opens, and Clicks
  • Volume of New Content
  • Questions Answered
  • Influencer Identification
  • Time to First Response
  • New Member Activity
  • Mobile Activity
  • Behavior Flows and Conversions
  • Resolution Time

CMX and Influitive spell out 21 areas of measurement:

  • Retention
  • New Customers
  • Customer Satisfaction Ratings
  • Customer Loyalty
  • NPS Score
  • Change in Sales Revenue
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • New User and Member Signups
  • Number or Percent of Answered Questions
  • Usage
  • Self-Support Activity
  • Case Deflection
  • Cost Savings
  • Reach
  • Number of Active Users and Members
  • Product Ideas
  • Product Feedback Implemented
  • Number of Posts
  • Adoption
  • Amount of Content Shipped or Approved
  • Market Share 

As a long list of behavioral (or numerical) data is cumbersome and difficult to use, we would like to propose a taxonomy that places each of the different data points into groupings (see below).

Online community metrics, customer communities, online communities

Turning Latent Community Data into Actionable Insights

All of these numerical metrics are valuable and are useful indicators as to the health of an online community and to its contribution to business results. But are these sufficient when it comes to capturing the actual voice of the customer? Would data analytics that combine numerical and natural language analysis produce deeper and broader business insights that numerical data within a silo? Are community managers leaving “data” on the table that resides within their communities that could be used for further business insights? Let’s return to these questions in a moment.

The Community Roundtable groups communities into four categories based on eight competencies, metrics and measurements being one of them:

Stage 1: Hierarchy. Use social technology or community structures in an ad hoc manner. Community strategy is lacking and resources have not been allocated. Metrics and measurements are not in place.

Stage 2: Emergency Community. Resources are dedicated to formalizing policies and processes for advocates, content creation, and reporting.

Stage 3: Community. Community is well-established and community managers are able to match metrics to progress. Advocates and members collaborate with each other.

Stage 4: Networked . Community plays a critical role in the business and shared measurements and processes exist between the community and different departments. Metrics and measurements track to shared business outcomes.

If you look at the list of metrics used to evaluate the health and success of communities and voice of the customer, you’ll find that they are all numerical. And in the event that a community uses natural language processing (NLP) for analysis and reporting, the focus is on sentiment and key-phrase analysis only. Further, cognition and numerical analytics are not overlaid on top of each other to create more meaningful insights. The result: online community analytics tell us if the communities and content are being used, but they do not tell us why and how . This only becomes possible when we employ NLP.

For mature online communities with substantial numbers of engaged members and repositories of content (user- and vendor-generated), there is a huge amount of latent data waiting to be tapped for business intelligence (BI). “The vast majority of online communities only look at transactional data—and at best, content traffic and utilization, with some of the behaviors of members, etc.,” says Rick Graves, former senior director of Symantec Customer Communities and Advocacy. “The next level of maturity is to start looking at natural language and what customers are actually saying, combining and correlating this qualitative data with the transactional data to produce even more actionable insights.”

The good news is that we designed Cognition Insights to address this precise opportunity. Able to work with structured and unstructured data types, numerical and natural language, Cognition Insights can provide powerful business insights about your online communities that enable you to drive engagement rates, improve content utilization, increase funnel advancement and lead conversions, drive customer satisfaction, identify and engage advocates, and much more.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few examples of how NLP can be used to analyze your community data to produce actionable business insights that can be used across the business.

Scenario 1: Sentiment Analysis. Cognition Insights can be used to analyze sentiment across user groups, product, industry, spend, etc. This involves an overlaying of CRM data and tags across natural language and analyzing for segment broken out across each of those CRM-related categories. These sentiment scores can be used as part of the customer health (or voice of the customer) score in the CRM or, if a score doesn’t exist in the CRM, as their health score.

Scenario 2: Key-phrase and Semantic Analysis. Cognition Insights can be used to identify top issues that customers are talking about—both positive and negative—that can be fed back to your support and product teams. Here, we overlay sentiment analysis on top of key-phrase and semantic analysis. In the case of support, they can develop scripts and processes that expedite the remediation of these issues. In the case of product, they can go back and make those fixes on the product side and push out new releases of their product.

Scenario 3: Persona Analysis. Cognition Insights analyzes natural language of your customers based on their needs, values, tone and semantic preferences, and personality profiles. We use this data to define customer personas and to help you segment customers and to target the right activities and content to them. This results in higher community engagement, improved content utilization rates, more advocates, increased advocacy rates, and higher member (whether customers, partners, or customers) satisfaction.

Scenario 4: Content Analysis. Cognition Insights enables you to look beyond behavioral data to the why behind it. The ability to understand why content resonates or doesn’t resonate with community members allows you to pinpoint content gaps, scale down in areas that aren’t producing results, and scale up in areas where results are being generated. The result is better content utilization rates and potential reductions in the time and cost to create content. For communities with demand generation as a focus area, content adjustments can also result in improved lead advancement and higher conversions.

Scenario 5: Demand-Gen (Consumption Funnel) Campaigns. Create consumption funnel campaigns—inside and outside of your online community—that target your customers based on persona segments. These campaigns are personalized to fit your different persona segments that are tagged accordingly in your CRM. The result are consumption campaigns that produce better results such as existing account revenue growth and improved customer and partner advocacy.

This is an exciting time for online community owners who have the right strategy and resources. You can do some truly remarkable things with your communities, and demonstrating the business value in terms of both numerical- and natural language-driven metrics as well as tapping your huge reservoirs of latent data for actionable business insights will turbocharge your efforts. Find out how Cognition Insights can help you scale your community by signing up for a demo today .

The Scribe

By Patrick Spencer 04 May, 2017

Many of us probably remember the incident involving musician Dave Carroll when United baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar (he overheard other passengers say that they were throwing guitars on the tarmac during his layover at Chicago O’Hare International). After 15 months of repeated attempts to get United to reimburse him for the repairs to his guitar and innumerable calls to United customer service (he asked for $1,200 in flight vouchers as compensation), Carroll composed and performed the three sequential songs titled “United Breaks Guitars.”

The first of three music videos that Carroll released, it went viral almost immediately—generating over 150,000 views in the first 24 hours. Within three days, the video had generated over a half million. Within a month, it had hit five million. Though United responded and attempted to remediate the situation, it was too late. 

The impact to United’s brand was immediate and substantial. The incident garnered significant attention—from news networks to academic settings (including an article in the Harvard Business Review ). I thought at the time that it would be very difficult for United to trump the “guitar fiasco.”

By Patrick Spencer 25 Apr, 2017

The jury is no longer out when it comes to online communities. The evidence undeniably shows that companies with online communities see tangible business returns. For example, a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group uncovered the following:

  • Businesses with online communities achieve 54 percent faster annual growth in revenue and see 3.1 times greater customer satisfaction rates.
  • Companies with online communities decrease customer service costs by 2.6 percent.
  • Customer service issues are resolved 37 percent of the time without escalation to a customer service agent.

Online communities also facilitate better customer engagement, which translates into higher revenues. For example, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan , customers that are actively engaged in communities spend 19 percent more than other customers.

By Patrick Spencer 01 Mar, 2017

Ascendance of Customer Storytelling

The evidence is almost incontrovertible when it comes to the importance of customer case studies. This was true 15 years ago when I worked with the IBM software team to build written customer case studies that were populated into a centralized database used by their sales team. IBM account representatives used them as corroboration with buyers to demonstrate that their peers were successfully using IBM software products.

The importance of case studies—or more specifically customer stories (or testimonials), for the space has expanded to include other content artifacts such as video, podcasts, business value impact studies, and blog posts—has only grown over time. Additionally, as the buyer journey funnel has developed in recent years, the role case studies play across the buyer funnel has expanded.

Take the top of the funnel as an example. If your case studies are optimized for SEO on your website, then you’ll generate case study traffic from buyers who are just starting to gain a basic understanding of their business issues and available solutions. And as they are spending more time researching solutions (80 percent indicate they do so), the more of your content that they find at this stage of the journey, the more brand awareness you can influence. The top three resources buyers consult when initially mapping out a solution include web search (68 percent), vendor websites (54 percent), and peers and colleagues (49 percent).

Case studies typically play a greater role in the middle of the journey when buyers seek to identify their business requirements and understand what type of solution aligns most closely with those. Thirty-eight percent of buyers list that they use case studies to gain an understanding of a vendor’s capabilities and to confirm that peers with comparable business issues have successfully used the vendor’s solution to address them.

By Patrick Spencer 22 Feb, 2017

Drowned Out from the Content Decibel Levels

One of the biggest challenges for content marketers today is the volume of content noise. The decibels are at levels where it is virtually impossible for someone to sift through everything that is being published. Think about it; for blog posts alone, there are over 70 million created every month (2 million per day!). The number of indexed Google pages went from 1 trillion in 2008 to 30 trillion in 2014. 

The push doesn’t seem to be slowing down, but rather speeding up. Seventy percent of content marketers plan to increase their marketing spend as well as the amount of content they produce this coming year. And while customers report that content plays a more important role in the buying process than ever before, they also indicate that one of their biggest challenges is the quantity of content they receive and identifying that which is valuable (quality). The list could go on and on.

Too many brands make the mistake of generating quantity over quality, failing to recognize the implications of Google Hummingbird on SEO . Rather than measuring business results, too many CEOs, and even CMOs, focus on volume—particularly when it comes to blog posts. I’ve lost count of the prospects and customers with whom I have spoken over the past couple years who nod their head in agreement when I speak to them about the need to increase the length and quality of posts while reducing the frequency of posts.


Content That Resonates Above and Through the Noise  

So, how many words are we talking about for a long-form post? It depends on the research, but most pin the “magic number” over 2,000 words . These long-form posts generate longer time spent on a page and more page views on a site. They also generate much better conversion rates —anywhere from 3x to 12x—than the typical 500- or 600-word post. (Note: This doesn’t discount the value of quality short blog posts. But a blog strategy that fails to incorporate quality, long-form content posts will not succeed in the era of Hummingbird).

Yet, at the same time, the same content leaders who agree with me indicate that they are unable to change their blog strategy from one targeting quantity as a core objective to one focused on quality content. What is their rationale? Their CEO or CMO mandates a certain number of blog posts per week, and moreover post volume is one of their primary measurements. Another factor is that they are unwilling to pay for more substantive blog posts. The adage, “you get what you pay” is quite apropos.

Looking at the broader content picture, what types of content do buyers value the most? The answer is content that reveals insightful research findings in their business segment and content that enables them to gain a deeper and broader understand of the available solutions. Buyers rank research as the most-valued form of content, with nearly three-quarters wanting vendors to “curb their sales messages” and do a better job of creating business issue-oriented content.

Examples Where Quality Content Matters

TIRO Communications was founded on the premise that quality content matters, and our ability to research, analyze, and write about varying topics in engaging and interesting ways differentiates the content we produce against that generated by other agencies and freelancers specializing in content and customer marketing. The following are a few of many examples where we have drawn upon our prowess in the areas of delivering Ph.D.-level research, analysis, and content authoring for clients: 

1. Comprehensive Content Strategy and Execution. TIRO Communications served as strategic content marketing consultant for MightyRecruiter and oversaw research and development of 30-plus different types of content (including 4 in-depth eBooks) used across the buyer journey that have generated hundreds of leads and nurtured hundreds to conversion. Check out the latest eBook that we researched and authored: “ 2017 Hiring Trends & Predictions: Industry Experts Weigh In .”

2. Solutions Guides. Researched and authored Solutions Guides on various topics for companies such as Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, Reverbant, VIEVU, and Fortinet to pinpoint industry trends, reasons for organizations to deploy a solution, and checklists of issues to consider when selecting a solutions provider and implementing a solution.

3. Blogging Strategy. Collaborated with the Davinci Virtual Office Solutions team to develop a new blog strategy . Initiatives included moving to longer-form industry research posts. Key results include:

  • Increase in SEO Inbound Traffic, 67%
  • Reduction in Quantity of Blog Posts, 45%
  • Increase in Social Shares and Likes, 25%
  • Growth in Opportunities from Blog Posts, 3%

By Patrick Spencer 21 Feb, 2017

One of the areas where TIRO Communications specializes is in creating substantive, in-depth content that is highly engaging and educational. Our award-winning content team has done it over and over for more than 15 years and for companies ranging from fast-growth startups to Fortune 200 companies.

Data Analytics, BI, and ML Add New Element to Thought Leadership Content  

As a complement to our Ph.D.-level research capabilities, we recently added data analytics, business intelligence (BI), and machine learning (ML). Not only are we developing cognition tools such as TIRO Cognition Insights that enable organizations to gain business insights that improve efficiencies, capture new revenue opportunities, and transform customer experience, but we’re also able to research and author in-depth research reports that uncover unique insights. 

With regard to researching and authoring thought leadership reports, many companies expend tens of thousands of dollars surveying decision makers and end users at a high level. And while survey findings remain relevant and valuable for many research reports, additional analysis of survey findings and other information sources such as CRM and ERP environments can turbocharge the findings from surveys. Our approach is based on real-world data, providing readers with actionable insights that produce measurable business outcomes.

2017 Workspace and Communications Services Report

 One of our existing clients, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions approached us late last year with a request to produce an industry thought leadership report on on-demand workspace and communications services. In addition to leveraging existing industry data and research, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions wanted to tap its vast reservoir of information residing in its customer relationship management (CRM) environment. As part of the project, we analyzed several hundred thousand records to reveal business insights used to generate a portion of the report: “2017 State of Workspace and Communications Services Report.”

Read the blog post and press release announcing the availability of the report. Or simply download and read it.

The 30-page report is broken into seven sections: 

  1. Business Disruption
  2. The Solution Providers
  3. Market Opportunities
  4. Business Drivers
  5. The Market
  6. Customer Acquisition
  7. Key Takeaways

A couple insights in the report that we identified using our data analytics and BI tools include:

  1. Historical cross-sell and up-sell rates reveal significant market opportunities for business office service providers to grow their revenues and expand their margins.
  2. Our analysis identified which industry segments exhibit the highest percentage of revenue across all four products: workspaces and meeting rooms, virtual offices, live receptionists, and live web chat. It also pinpointed repeat workspace and meeting room bookings for each industry segment.

Other insights include:

  1. The average booking ratio for live inventory is 49 percent higher than non-live inventory and at a 38 percent higher rate.
  2. Churn rate for subscription services is less than half of standard SaaS-accepted rates.
  3. Customers continue to prefer multiple engagement channels (for lead origin), with phone remaining the leading preference across all four product groups.
  4. For business office service providers offering multiple products, there is a significant opportunity to grow revenue through cross-selling (e.g., 20 percent of live receptionist leads come from cross-selling).

By Patrick Spencer 03 Feb, 2017

Seeking to pinpoint how their customers rate and value their product and service experiences, many businesses embrace some form of customer experience survey program today. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) Index is the most prevalent. Research demonstrates that the companies with the highest scores in their industry segments outperform their competitors , generating higher margins and greater customer lifetime value. In addition to companies developing tunnel vision and becoming infatuated with high NPS scores, many realize NPS and other survey results are inadequate when left on their own.

Augmenting and  Amplifying Customer Experience Survey Models

To begin, in too many cases, companies are “cooking the books” when it comes to their NPS and customer experience scores. Employees from over half of companies that use NPS as a business measurement indicate their organizations are more interested in achieving a high score than in actually improving customer experience. You don’t need to go very far for a reference point; automobile manufacturers are notorious for attempting to elicit biased scores by incenting customers to mark off high scores in exchange for discounted services. 

On a similar note, though it goes without saying that NPS and other customer experience survey methodologies, when used correctly, offer organizations valuable insights on their customers, they do not reveal the why behind the answers they provide. These surveys also only capture a segment of total customer feedback; existing customers and not former customers. In addition, the percentage of customers responding to surveys has plummeted (and continues to do so), further limiting the breath of insights that can be collected from them. The reality is that there is simply too much digital “noise,” and survey fatigue is a tangible problem.

Online Review Sites and Community Forums: Latent Intelligence Opportunity  

Online review sites and community forums offer a rich repository of objective, unfiltered customer comments and feedback. In B2B instances, we’re talking about hundreds or even thousands of reviews and thousands or tens of thousands of comments on community forums. B2C companies typically have even more reviews and forum comments at their disposal.

However, the intelligence contained within these data sources remains latent with regard to evaluating, measuring, and modifying customer experience. Companies see the review sites as a marketing tool; a means for eliciting customer content, generating new marketing and sales leads, and identifying new customer advocates. They aren’t looking to review sites for customer insights.

When it comes to online community forums, the primary reason organizations build them is to provide customers with self-service opportunities. Secondary use cases include delivering educational content to customers, enabling prospects to connect with customers and evaluate their solution based on customer comments and feedback, and engaging and mobilizing customers for advocacy activities.


Creation of TIRO Cognition Insights

With this in mind, we created and built TIRO Cognition Insights. We scrape, organize, and analyze your customer information – along with competitors’ customers – to pinpoint actionable insights that allow organizations to improve efficiencies and capture new opportunities. Configured as a managed service, the TIRO Communications team works with the customer to determine which competitive products, review sites, and online communities to include in the analysis. Potential outputs include:

  • Sentiment scores at various of levels of granularity over time for your product and your competitors’ product – in aggregate and per online review site and community forum.
  • Smart SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) based on NLP (Natural Language Processing) for your product as well as for each of the competitor products included in the study
  • Key-phrase and entity analysis pinpoint areas of intelligence such as the most positively and negatively rated aspects of your (and your competitors’) product, comparison of product messaging with the what customers are saying, and alignment of demand-gen marketing tactics and strategies with what resonates with customers.
  • Honing of content messaging, tone, and brand voice a well as creation of demand-gen programs and communications based on understanding of customer values, needs, and personality types.

7 Analytical Areas Examined by TIRO Cognition Insights  

TIRO Cognition Insights draws upon seven different analytical areas to develop actionable business insights. These include:

  • Customer Experience. For customer experience teams that are serious about improving customer experience and tapping new business opportunities based on what their customers and those of their competitors are saying, TIRO Cognition offers them the ability to augment and amplify the insights gathered from survey tools such as NPS by revealing granular detail.
  • Product Management . Pinpoint what customers like and don’t like in a product. Refine development roadmaps based on market threats and opportunities.
  • Sales Enablement. Exploit product strengths and competitor weaknesses with sales plays and programs, battle cards, and market opportunities.
  • Demand-Gen Marketing. Create competitive takeout campaigns based on competitive weaknesses and threats while creating precision-point campaigns and content based on what customers want.
  • Product Marketing. Align messaging and content tone with customer insights and differentiate product and services from competitive products and services based on Smart SWOT analysis.
  • Customer Success and Support. Tune support and relationship management by identifying gaps and capitalizing on strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) can benefit greatly from the actionable insights generated by Cognition Insights.
  • Advocacy Marketing. Fill capability and feature gaps on online review sites and community sites as well as regularly monitor aggregate and individual sentiment site sentiment for your product as well as competitive products.

Check Out the Demo of TIRO Cognition Insights

Data analytics and business intelligence (BI) offer companies new opportunities to pinpoint actionable business insights that can have a direct, immediate, and long-term impact on their businesses. Check out our Demo Video on TIRO Cognition Insights for more details. Or schedule time with us for a deeper look at TIRO Cognition Insights and how it can help you improve your efficiencies, achieve better margins, and tap into new business opportunities.

By Patrick Spencer 16 Aug, 2016

With the right strategy in place, blogs can serve as critical engines for a marketing organization. As a starting point, blogs are great tools for generating inbound traffic, a significantly cheaper channel than outbound lead-generation programs. Eighty-two percent of companies that blog see a positive ROI for their inbound marketing programs. Outcomes organizations typically see as a result of blogs include more leads and opportunities, better prospect and customer engagement, and higher revenue.

 And compared to companies that do not have blogs, those with blogs see better business outcomes:

·    Produce 67% more leads

·     13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI

·    Generate 97% more links to their website

The level of success your blog generates is contingent on a number of factors. The following are 15 recommendations that will help ensure that your blog is successful. For organizations just launching a blog, these serve as a critical checklist of things to do. For organizations with a blog, they provide you with the means to evaluate your blog strategy and execution and ascertain if changes are needed.

1. Design. How your blog site is designed makes a big difference when it comes to readership engagement. Critical factors you need to consider include the colors used (keep them simple), placement of the sidebar on the right side (readership decreases 15 to 25 percent when it is on the left side), utilization of a larger font size (at least 11 pt.), among others.

2. Brand Voice. Your blog is a critical part of your company’s brand voice . It needs to be consistent with your brand messaging and style guides. The following are some of the things that you need to consider: 1) vernacular (e.g., acronyms, use of conjunctions), 2) formal or casual—or somewhere between, 3) use of emoticons, 4) use of humor, 5) types of visuals used, and 6) overall tone.

3. SEO. Since one of the primary reasons for blogging is for inbound SEO traffic, making sure your website—or online community—as well as your posts are optimized for SEO is a critical requirement. There are a number of things that you need to remember here: 1) make sure your blog pages have appropriate title tags (viz., contain relevant and informative keywords) as well as meta descriptions (search results that appear below title tag), 2) always use ALT image tags in your blog posts, 3) use keywords found in the body of the blog post in your title, 4) pinpoint keywords (and associated topics) with the lowest competition and highest search volume, and 5) use titles no longer than 55 to 60 characters (as they get cut off in Google Search.

4. Curation. Curation can provide you with ideation for blog posts, as well as other content assets and even demand-gen campaigns. For blogs, curation generates measurable results such as 1) an increase in the number of posts, 2) higher inbound SEO traffic, 3) improved social engagement, 4) build your audience and leads, and 5) more time spent on your website. If you are curating content, there are a couple of things to remember. First, you need to ensure that you include your take on the curated asset; these need to be approximately 300 words in length. Second, in addition to short-form curated blog posts, you need to ensure that you follow a 60/40 rule and include a significant number of long-form posts with those curated short-form posts.

5. Long-Form Posts. Just a few years ago, we were talking about the optimal length of blog posts between 600 and 700 words. But ongoing search changes by Google have completely changed this landscape. The average length of time spent reading a post today is seven minutes ; this equates to about 1,600 words. Some are arguing for even longer posts—between 2,250 and 2,500 words . These long-form posts not only generate a higher SEO ranking, but they elicit much better engagement (social shares, etc.).

6. Cross-Links. Building cross-links into your blog posts increases the stickiness of your website while allowing you to direct readers to demand-gen content that requires registration (for lead capture). One strategy that many marketers forget to do is adding cross-links into previously written blog posts (e.g., as new posts are added). What’s nice about cross-linking is that it is not only helpful to the reader (by supplying additional information or resources), but it is helpful to your SEO.

7. Interactive Engagement. Including the ability for readers to comment and even have interactive discussions on your blog posts drives higher engagement. One of the most effective ways to get readers to comment on the blog post is to employ pathos or ethos—make them feel something (inspirational, sadness, happiness, etc.). And if you want readers to comment, then you’d better respond to them when they do so. You can even make it fun by adding a top commentator widget to your blog navigation sidebar, a move that could increase commenting by 50 percent or more.

8. Subscription. Include the ability for visitors to subscribe to your posts. Email is the preferred over RSS, as the engagement of readers who subscribe to email is about four times higher than those who subscribe to RSS feeds. (I realize that we don’t have an email subscription on our blog. I remain hopeful that DudaOne.com adds the feature shortly.)

9. Visuals. You’ve probably heard the saying, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”? Make it 60,000, and you would be closer to the truth. Ninety percent of the information the human brain processes are visual images, and these are processed at a rate of 60,000 faster than words. Retention of visual images is dramatically better as well: 10 to 20 percent of written or spoken information is retained after three days, while 65 percent of visuals can still be culled after that same timeframe.

10. Social Integration. Including your social buttons on your blog makes your posts more viral and ultimately drives more inbound SEO traffic to your blog (and website). Scrolling social buttons on the left-hand side make it much easier for readers to promote and/or comment about the post on their social channels, as much as 27 percent in some cases. (This is another feature I hope DudaOne.com will add to their platform.) Beyond promoting each blog post on different social networks, you should also post them to popular social bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.). These give you backlinks and help drive inbound SEO traffic.

11. Demand-Gen Integration. Two-thirds of buyers list blog posts as one of the content assets they leverage to research their solution options. Almost the same percentage indicate they share blog posts with colleagues and peers—a number that went up significantly this year. This makes sense considering that blog posts are a great way to distill prescriptive recommendations (prescriptive content is listed as the top content preference by buyers). With buyers listing web search and vendor websites as the top two ways they are informed about a solution, quality blog content that is integrated with your demand-gen strategy should be a top priority. Specifically, each of your campaigns need to have blog posts dedicated to driving awareness and ultimately traffic to content assets requiring lead-generation capture. But it is broader than above-the-funnel or top-of-the funnel activities, blog posts—either individually or aggregated in groups—can be used for middle-of-the-funnel activities as well (from email, to account-based marketing, to social, to ad retargeting).

12. Guest and Influencer Blog Posts. The well-known saying, “the more, the merrier,” certainly applies to blog posting. Companies with lower ROI call on fewer guest bloggers and staff writers, using only one author or a small handful of executives (some companies even make the egregious mistake of posting anonymously). Tapping guest bloggers—partners, influencers, and customers—builds your audience when they promote their posts on their own social and marketing channels. This also gives your advocates a chance to shine by showcasing their prowess while blogging about topics that are important to you and them.

13. BIOs. Building a connection with readers is an important part of a blog strategy. In fact, they actually are less likely to comment on blog posts unless they know something about the author. They also need to see the author in addition to reading about her or him; make sure to include a photo of the author along with her or his BIO.

14. Analytics and Reporting. There are a lot of different data points that you can measure when it comes to blogging. The Content Marketing Institute spells out 21 potential blog metrics that should be tracked. These can be consolidated into three primary buckets: 1) activities (blog posts published, threaded comment discussions, etc.), 2) brand awareness and engagement (blog audience and subscribers, inbound SEO traffic, social and email shares, etc.), and 3) business outcomes (leads generated, leads and opportunities influenced, etc.).

15. Frequency. The frequency of your blog posts directly determine your success. Sporadic blog posts don’t cut it, as you cannot build audience and thought leadership unless you post on a consistent and regular basis. For companies that do so , their blogs generate 55 percent more site visits, 97 percent more links to their websites, and a 434 percent higher page-indexing rate than those that fail to do so.

While the above isn’t a comprehensive list, it is a darn good start. You certainly have a much better chance of being in the 82 percent of companies with positive marketing ROI if you adhere to these.

By Patrick Spencer 21 Jun, 2016

We normally take a family vacation every summer. This year, we made a last-minute change in our itinerary and went on a cruise to visit some of the ruins from the former Mayan Empire in Central America. This was our fourth family cruise.

Our first was on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in the eastern Mediterranean, and it was a huge hit with everyone. We were especially impressed with the quality of service we received and how every crew member consciously personified the NCL brand. Each member of the crew was passionate about her or his work, the NCL brand, as well as every guest, understanding the intricate connection between service extended to guests and how that translates into representation of the NCL brand.

NCL certainly gets it when it comes to brand experience. It starts when you’re boarding the ship and extends to the last minute you’re onboard and about to walk across the gangway, where crew members form a line and thank thousands of guests for sailing with NCL as they depart.

By Patrick Spencer 07 May, 2016

Small businesses are faced with countless challenges. One of them is overhead of leasing physical office space. On average, ranking only behind employee wages and benefits and inventories, small businesses spend nearly 10 percent on office space.

But what would many of these small businesses do if an alternative existed? They could take all of that capital and put it back into the business, developing better products, hiring better talent, and spending more time building relationships with prospects and customers.

Another problem with leased office space is that it likely isn’t in a prime location. High-end, professional office space is far beyond what a small business is able to pay. However, a subpar office address diminishes your brand and value proposition. First impressions count after all.

But there is a better solution. Small businesses in growing numbers are opting to get rid of leased office space in exchange for rented office space. Indeed, 22 percent of companies using virtual offices today previously had physical offices and gave them up. In exchange, they get a great address to hang their license and receive mail. The following are six recommendations that small businesses need to put into place to ensure a successful move from a physical to virtual office space:

1. Location. Find a virtual office with great addresses that demand respect.

2. Business Services. Make sure your virtual office comes with some requisite business services such as mail receipt and forwarding, registered agent and license hanging, a lobby directory listing, and more.

3. Meeting Rooms and Day Offices. Although you no longer need permanent office space, you likely still need office space for employee, prospect, customer, and partner meetings as well as day offices for employees when a physical office is required. Not every virtual office has the option of rented meeting rooms. Pick your virtual address careful.

4. Remote Locations. Check out to verify the locations of your virtual office provider. If they are limited, then you will be limited (or using multiple solution providers).

5. Technology Tools. Assuming your virtual office location also has rented meeting room capabilities (from conference rooms to day offices), find out what technology tools are available. Do they provide audio and video conferencing? Auto and virtual receptionists? Project management and communications tools?

For the original blog post on “ Why Small Businesses Are Opting to Go from Physical to Virtual Offices ,” visit the Davinci Virtual Blog. And in the case you’re interested in learning more about virtual office solutions, download the Solutions Guide “ Davinci Virtual Office Solutions: Boosting Businesses with High-Profile Virtual Addresses and Offices .”

By Patrick Spencer 05 May, 2016

Outside of the occasion encounter with an older bully who padded their self-esteem by picking on younger kids, I liked riding at the back of the bus. As my brothers and I were the first ones on in the morning and last ones off in the evening (it was a more than one-hour long ride each way), I spent a lot of time cutting my teeth on piles of books from the school and county libraries.

When I started my marketing career after finishing up my academic treks, I found myself riding at the back of the figurative professional bus. You see, Customer Marketing or Advocacy Marketing was relegated to the back of the marketing bus back at the turn of the century. Programs that measured their results based on the numbers of case studies and video testimonials they produced and managed to keep complaints from sales, AR, and PR professionals and other marketing colleagues to a minimal were considered upper-quadrant leaders. With such a low bar, it is no wonder Customer Marketing practitioners rode on the back of the bus. 
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